Green-Winged Teal

Anas crecca

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Photo of a green-winged teal pair floating on water.
Teals are relatively small dabbling ducks and have been called the “bantams of the duck tribe.”
Jim Rathert
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

The adult male has a rusty head, a gray body, a green band from eye to back of neck, a tan breast, and a white stripe on the side of the upper breast that appears vertical as the bird rests on water. The female has a brown body, a green speculum (wing patch), a small bill, and a dark eye line; the undertail covert feathers are whitish and not spotted; it lacks the white spot at the base of the bill that is present in the female blue-winged teal. The female produces a shrill high whistle; the male’s call is louder and sometimes hoarser.

Similar species: Compared to the female green-winged teal, the female blue-winged teal looks grayer. In addition to the white spot at the base of the bill (noted above), it has a dark (not white) belly, there is a blue wing patch in front of the green, and the undertail coverts are darker and more heavily spotted.

Key Identifiers

 

  • Small size
  • Rapid flight
  • Iridescent green wing patches
Size

Length: 14 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

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Photo of a male green-winged teal floating on water.
Green-Winged Teal Male
The adult male green-winged teal has a white stripe on the side of the upper breast that appears vertical as the bird rests on water.

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Photo of a male green-winged teal floating on water.
Green-Winged Teal Male
Like the male American wigeon, the male green-winged teal has a green stripe running from the eye down the back of the head and neck.

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Photo of a female green-winged teal dabbling in mud on a pond bank.
Green-Winged Teal Female
Both males and female green-winged teal have the iridescent green speculum (wing patch) that gives them their name.

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Photo of a female green-winged teal floating on water.
Green-Winged Teal Female
On female green-winged teal, the undertail covert feathers are whitish and not spotted.

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Photo of a male green-winged teal standing on a muddy pond bank.
Green-Winged Teal Male
In Missouri, the green-winged teal is a common migrant. It is not known to breed in the state. It's a common winter resident in southern Missouri.

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Green-Winged Teal
Green-Winged Teal

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Photo of a male green-winged teal standing and dabbling in muddy shallow water.
Green-Winged Teal Male
Green-winged teal forage in shallow water for seeds, vegetation, and invertebrates.

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Photo of a male green-winged teal standing in shallow water, female in distance.
Green-Winged Teal
Their fast flight, abundance, and good-tasting meat make green-winged teal one of the most popular ducks for hunting.

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Photo of a female green-winged teal standing in shallow soggy grasses.
Green-Winged Teal Female
In Missouri, we mostly see green-winged teal as they migrate in spring and fall.

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Green-winged Teal Foraging
Green-winged Teal Foraging
A flock of 500 green-winged teal munch on invertebrates in the mudflats along the shallowly flooded pools at Duck Creek.
Habitat and conservation

Green-winged teal are found in marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, streams, and flooded bottomland. They prefer moderately dense aquatic vegetation interspersed throughout the water and forage in shallow water with vegetation. Teal and other dabbling ducks can take flight by springing directly into the air from the water’s surface. Their wings are large in relation to their body weight, giving them the ability to lift easily from the surface of the water.

Foods

This teal forages in shallow water for seeds, vegetation, and invertebrates. Teals belong to a group of ducks called dabblers, which rarely dive underwater. Instead, they float, only ducking their heads under the surface, and “tip up” with their tails pointed skyward. They sift mud through their bills to strain out small aquatic insects and other invertebrates.

image of Green-Winged Teal Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common migrant. Not known to breed in the state, although individuals and pairs have been observed during the summer months. Common winter resident on unfrozen marshes in southern Missouri with fewer in northern Missouri.

Life cycle

Green-winged teal breed in Canada, Alaska, and the northern Rockies, and they winter in Mexico and in the western and southern United States. In Missouri, we see them as they migrate in spring and fall. As with most other North American migratory waterfowl, they require plenty of healthy wetlands and permanent ponds along their migration flyways and nesting territories.

Human connections

Their fast flight, abundance, and good-tasting meat make green-winged teal one of the most popular ducks for hunting. Like other popular migratory gamebirds, their numbers are carefully managed by state, federal, and international conservation agencies.

Ecosystem connections

Eggs and ducklings provide food for a variety of predators, including raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Adults feed on many kinds of aquatic invertebrates as well as a variety of grains and aquatic plants.